An inescapable double-bind has emerged for Germany: If Germany lets its weaker neighbors default on their sovereign debt, the euro will be harmed, and German exports within Europe will slide. But if Germany becomes the "lender of last resort," then its taxpayers end up footing the bill. If public and private debt in the troubled nations keeps rising at current rates, it's possible that even mighty Germany may be unable (or unwilling) to fund an essentially endless bailout. That would create pressure within both Germany and the debtor nations to jettison the single currency as a good idea in theory, but ultimately unworkable in a 16-nation bloc as diverse as the eurozone. Be wary of the endless "fixes" to a structurally doomed system.
Christine Lagarde, who is quick to play the gender card, has released her formal statement to the IMF Executive Board pitching her candidacy. As she herself prioritizes her qualifications: "Having clarified this situation let me state the following: I stand here as a woman, hoping to add to the diversity and balance of this institution." etc. Translation: no need to worry I will (allegedly) rape maids, so pick me. Then there's everything else, which for a bailout agency which is now wholly in China's shadow, is very much irrelevant.
It is not only the Chinese interbank market that has found itself in a liquidity vacuum. A quick look at recent moves in European overnight lending rates shows that in the past two weeks the key Eonia overnight rate hit a multiyear high of 1.549%, which was rather disturbing because as Reuters points out "Factors related to the end of the first half of the year, when banks tend to lend less as they square up their books, also kept cash prices over two weeks near the European Central Bank's main refi rate of 1.25 percent, money market traders said." Of course, concerns about Greece are a far more prevalent factor in the closed loop that is liquidity evaporation. Which is why the Eonia plunge to 1.091% on Wednesday would have been surprising in isolation, but not if one considers that during yesterday's ECB Main Refinancing Operation (MRO), banks borrowed a whopping €186.9 billion in 7 day funding at a fixed rate of 1.25%. This is €50 billion more than what was borrowed in the past week, and as the chart below shows, is the highest since January when the market was once again concerned about European exposure to Portugal and Ireland (then subsequently forgot all its concerns for about 5 months).
Bernanke Lies Half Life Reduced To Under One Day As Aflac Scrambling To Shore Up Liquidity On European ExposureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/23/2011 11:33 -0400
Yesterday during his press conference, the Chairman uttered his latest lie: "We have asked the banks to essentially do stress tests and ask, looking at all their positions, all their hedges, what would the effect on their capital be if -- if Greece defaulted...The answer is that the effects are very small.” Enter Aflac to prove that the half life of Bernanke's lies is now under 24 hours. From Bloomberg: "Aflac Inc. (AFL), the largest seller of supplemental health insurance, may issue as much as 100 billion yen ($1.24 billion) in debt as it records losses tied to investments in banks from Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Second-quarter losses on the assets will probably be about
$610 million, the Columbus, Georgia-based insurer said today in
a statement." Additionally, Aflac CEO Amos has added invesments in public utilities and Japanese government debt to minimize the company's exposure in Europe. Yet what is truly hilarious is that as the EFSF's spokesman Christof Roche just announced in commenting on the sale of 2016 bonds from the CDO, "Asian investors bought 46.5% of the bonds issued yesterday." In other words, by transferring exposure to Japan, Aflac is merely gaining exposure to Europe through yet another insolvent government. But such is life in the unwind phase of the biggest global ponzi ever conceived, in which the smallest mark to market event on the global financial balance sheet in which everyone's assets are someone's else liabilities and vice versa, will launch the biggest house of cards collapse in history.
The big question is how many people are long stocks because they played the 200 day moving average bounce? We have had at least 3 chances in the last week for investors to buy the moving average. It seems like a lot of people had stopped buying the dip during the relentless march down for stocks, but everyone seemed to jump on the bandwagon that the 200 DMA was a big support for stocks. I think a lot of investors got sucked in and allocated capital and are now weak longs. One group waited until Tuesday when the market really seemed strong and 'was destined to test resistance at 1300' before buying in. The other group of weak longs are those who typically don't play technicals but found the 200 DMA bounce theory too compelling to resist. It is always difficult to trade when losing money, but the ability to make really dumb decisions goes up when we have positions that were put on for reasons that we don't normally follow. The technicians are used to these trades, it is what they do. The 'fundamentalists' are not and are more likely to react badly to losing money here. People must be scratching their heads a little, since it seems, according the rose colour glasses world i) Greece fixed, ii) Contagion avoided, iii) economic soft patch is only a soft patch and no risk of double dip, and iv) Bernanke will be there for us.
The eurozone is in serious trouble and Greece is just a symptom. Whether or not they default on their debt may not matter as similar problems plague Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and even Italy. The European Monetary Union is built on a house of cards and they don't have the time for needed radical reforms. Like all sovereigns who owe more than they can pay, they will resort to monetary inflation to bail themselves out. This article explains how the EMU works, why it is failing, and why they will resort to fiat money printing to solve it.
The Status Quo consensus is that "kicking the can down the road" a.k.a. "extend and pretend" will work because "Greece, Spain, Ireland et al. are going to "grow their way out of debt." That is a fantasy. Once a household or nation is burdened with stupendous debt loads and stagnating earnings, "growing your way out of debt" is impossible. The E.U. may succeed in strong-arming Greece into swallowing even more debt, more austerity and higher interest payments, but that will only speed up the self-reinforcing dynamics of insolvency, and guarantee the losses kicked down the road for a few months will be even more devastating.
It will be a fun experiment to see if we can truly strip a government down to the singular function of taxing the citizens to give money to banks - consider it a practice run for their vision of the US.
I am back to being bearish the high yield market. I am not yet short it, but would certainly recommend being underweight right now. A couple of things have pushed me back to being bearish. The main one is weakness in other credit markets. Once again CMBX is heading lower and back at or near its recent lows. It has not been able to sustain a big rally which is particularly surprising because it is relatively illiquid and is a 'hedge' trade so is usually very exposed to a violent short squeeze. Irish and Portuguese 10 year bond hit new record yields according to Bloomberg - 11.47% and 10.99% respectively at the time of the writing, though Portugal broke 11% earlier in the day...The combination of weakness in other credit markets, coupled by the HYG NAV confirming that liquidity is at an extreme low in the high yield bond market I think it is prudent to cut high yield risk. With European credit closing quite weakly, I may shift to an outright short.
Reuters has compiled a useful summary for everyone confused why the S&P may be trading with the volatility of a 3-page Hank Paulson blank check TARP proposal day, based on what a few MPs in Greece decide to vote, or not, for, in just under 10 hours.
- Confidence vote in Greek parliament at 2100 GMT
- Representatives from "troika" of EU, IMF and European Central Bank in Athens for talks through June 22
- European Union summit meeting in Brussels on June 23-24
- Parliamentary vote on more austerity steps tentatively set for June 28
- Main labour unions to launch 48-hour strike on day of austerity vote
SocGen Tries To Make Sense Of The Complete Chaos That Is Europe Ahead Of The Greek Vote Of Confidence, FailsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/20/2011 19:22 -0400
If anyone has a clear idea what is going in Europe, you are smarter than us, and may move on to a different post. For everyone else, here is a must read piece from SocGen that tries to make sense of what is rapidly becoming the biggest clusterfuck in modern European history, in which everyone hates the outcome that is predetermined by the bankers, yet nobody knows just how to achieve it. From SocGen's James Nixon: "What is so surprising is how much the Eurogroup appears to have handed the initiative to Greece itself; if the Government falls after Tuesday’s vote of confidence presumably we reach the point where the crisis starts to get really sporting. And, if there weren’t hurdles enough, the latest from Mr Papandreou is a referendum on the whole kit and caboodle in the autumn. The risk for the Eurogroup is that the gambit of pressuring Papandreou may now backfire with some of the Greek press seeing this as a full frontal attack on the PM. In many respects the situation in Greece very closely mirrors the political situation in Portugal. The right-wing business orientated opposition is unhappy that their spendthrift socialist government still haven’t bitten the bullet and undertaken root and branch reform of the public sector. Hence Mr Papandreou continues to rely too heavily on hypothetical increases in tax revenue rather than wield the axe over his own supporters. As in Portugal, the opposition may be prepared to bring down the government over this if they can and force new elections. This would leave the Eurogroup having to negotiate with the different political parties in Greece in order to secure agreement on further austerity."
Other countries are rapidly dropping US debt like a hot potato. Russia has sold off 30% of its US Treasury holdings. China has lowered its holdings for five months straight and has even suggested selling off 2/3 of its exposure. And with even legendary bond investors like Bill Gross avoiding Treasuries, we’re rapidly heading into a debt Crisis that will make 2008 look like a picnic.
Doubling Down On Bailout CDOs: EFSF Guarantees To Be Raised From €440 Bn To €780 Bn As Europe Prepares For Spain FailureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/20/2011 08:37 -0400
According to flashing headlines, the CDO better known as the European Financial Stability Fund will be increased to guarantee €780 billion in the future, up from €440 billion currently (the same EFSF which currently sees Greece, which has no money left at all, guaranteeing €12.4 billion of European bailouts). This was largely expected previously as many had noted that the EFSF in its current form is insufficient to cover the liabilities of Spain once the country is swept away to the Greek insolvency tsunami. Alas, for the EURUSD which is seeing this as good news, and has surged on the announcement, this development actually means that Europe is taking proactive steps to fund Spain imminently when the house of cards start falling potentially as soon as Tuesday night. This is nothing but a Spain, and then Italy, backstop. However, for Italy to be covered, expect the total covered amount to be €1. 5 trillion. Did the Eurozone just blink?
Last week Zero Hedge was the first (and so far only) to notice there was something disturbing in the European interbank market (here and here), where various [blank]-OIS spreads had blown out on a relative basis to levels that while not indicative of an imminent liquidity crunch confirmed that the liquidity in the overnight funding market, all of is backstopped by the ECB, was disappearing fast. Now, courtesy of the Guardian we know of at least one of the reasons for this troubling observations: "Senior sources have revealed that leading banks, including Barclays and Standard Chartered, have radically reduced the amount of unsecured lending they are prepared to make available to eurozone banks, raising the prospect of a new credit crunch for the European banking system. Standard Chartered is understood to have withdrawn tens of billions of pounds from the eurozone inter-bank lending market in recent months and cut its overall exposure by two-thirds in the past few weeks as it has become increasingly worried about the finances of other European banks. Barclays has also cut its exposure in recent months as senior managers have become increasingly concerned about developments among banks with large exposures to the troubled European countries Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal." As expected, where there is smoke, or blowing out liquidity spreads, there is fire, or in this case Ice-Nine. Next, we will be shocked to learn that there is a comparable trend in China (as also proposed by Zero Hedge), where the 1 week SHIBOR rate continues to be near 2011 highs.
From the Telegraph (UK): Moves by [UK] stronger banks to cut back their lending to weaker [EU] banks is reminiscent of the build-up to the financial crisis in 2008, when the refusal of banks to lend to one another led to a seizing-up of the markets that eventually led to the collapse of several major banks and taxpayer bail-outs of many more.
This is exactly what I've been crowing about for 2 years. It's actually much worse than Lehman... Much Worse!